KATHMANDU, April 4: The US military has shifted its focus toward high altitude training in Nepal, as joint exercises between the Nepali and American forces continue to take place. As part of this initiative, the US Army has begun prioritizing search and rescue training in the high Himalayan and mountainous regions of Nepal.
In recent years, the Nepali Army has engaged in joint military exercises with both the Indian and US armies. Just last January, a joint exercise named X-Balance Nail-23-3011 was conducted between 45 Nepali and 19 American soldiers. The objective of this exercise was to enhance the knowledge and capabilities of search and rescue operations, including water and air rescue, in high altitude and mountainous areas.
The joint military exercise was successfully conducted in the cantonment of Kathmandu and Nagarkot in Bhaktapur until 2nd February. Nepal Army has been actively engaged in joint military exercises with various nations such as India, China, and the United States. In August 2022, the US Army conducted a training session in Nagarkot and Cantonment, where 96 participants, including 80 Nepali Army personnel and 16 US Army personnel, received training.
"The US Army has proposed to conduct such training in Upper Mustang or in other Himalayan districts," said a military source. The Nepali Army has already decided the schedule and location of the training and sent it to the cantonment and Nagarkot. Accordingly, they have been participating in the training.
On the flip side, some soldiers also take part in the High Altitude Training Center situated in Mustang under the Nepali Army. Since 2003, the Nepali Army has been conducting joint training exercises with the US Army. From the outset, the US Army has been requesting for the training to be held in Mustang and Manang. However, the Nepali Army, being vigilant about such issues, has refrained from conducting joint exercises in these areas as much as possible. According to security sources, some quotas have been allocated to the US Army in the 'High Altitude and Mountain Warfare' School, established in 1975 in Mustang, though the exact number is unknown. "The army must be trained in various fields and must face the challenges that come with it. Therefore, during the joint exercise of Nepali and American forces, such training takes place and it provides an opportunity to exchange experiences," stated Brigadier General Krishna Prasad Bhandari, spokesperson for the Nepali Army.
The Nepali Army has established a training center in Jomsom, Mustang, catering to the needs of foreign troops seeking basic training. Given the demand for intensive training to prepare for relief and rescue operations in high altitude and mountainous regions during emergencies, the training center in Mustang is a vital addition. According to military sources, approximately 150 to 200 American soldiers visit Nepal each year to receive such training. These troops participate in various types of military exercises, including high altitude training, while also sharing their experiences with their Nepali counterparts. In recent years, the Nepali Army's Command and Staff College has seen a surge in military students from different countries, including the United States. The High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School, established in Mustang in 1975, offers basic and advanced courses to soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and various European nations.